We remember English player Joseph Blake who passed away on Tuesday, December 11th, 1951.
Joseph Henry Blake was born on Thursday, February 3rd, 1859 in Farnborough, Hampshire. His parents were Joseph Denner and Eliza Blake (née Early). In 1871 Joseph (aged 12) had a brother Frank (aged 10), sisters Annie (8), Elizabeth S (7), Eliza E (1) and a servant, Kate Longman aged 18. The family lived in Lydia Cottage, Hewitts Road, Millbrook, South Stoneham, Hampshire.
According to the 1861 census Joseph was two years old and living with his parents and Frank in Rotten Row, Yeovil, Somerset.
In 1881 the family has upped sticks again and moved to 2 St. Lawrence Road, Saint Mary, Eastleigh, Hampshire. This address is also given as the South West Telegraph Office. Eliza was now the head of the household and a widower. Apart from Eliza E aged 11 everyone worked for the railway.
In 1891 Joseph had become Head of the Household (aged 32) and they had acquired a servant (Anna M Cornell) and a blacksmith (Francis Cornell) from Braintree in Essex.
In 1900 Joseph married Alice New in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. They lived at 24, Barton Road, Eastleigh, Hampshire. Tragically, Alice passed away in 1903.
The remarkable feature about Blake’s chess career is that he retained his skill and his comprehension of the game for a much longer period that most chess players. This extended from 1887 when he was 1st at the Counties Chess Association tournament at Stamford ahead of Bird and Pollock, a performance he was to repeat in 1891 at Oxford, to 1909 when he tied with H. E. Atkins for first place in the British Championship, to 1923 when he won the Weston-super-Mare tournament, right into the 1930s when he was principal annotator for the British Chess Magazine.”
Blake was President of the Southern Counties Chess Association in 1911 and President of the Hampshire Chess Association from 1910-1912 and from 1927-1929. He was also Hon. Secretary of the City of London Chess Club for some years.”
According to Tim Harding in the excellent Correspondence Chess in Britain and Ireland, 1824-1987 :
Railway clerk Joseph Henry Blake, the leading English correspondence player of the 1890s; also a strong OTB amateur player. He was a regular contributor to British Chess Magazine from the 1880s to the late 1930s.
In British Chess Magazine, Volume XXXIX (39, 1919), Number 3 (March) we have the following from Julius du Mont : “I presume it relates more particularly to chess professionals in this country, at any rate, it does not seem to me that the jews hold rank amongst first-class amateurs in proportion to their numbers.
In London there are very few if any of the class of RC Griffith, GA Thomas, JH Blake, HG Cole, EG Sergeant, and many others to say nothing of the younger recruits , W.Winter and RHV Scott.”
From the 1949 British Chess Magazine (written by RN Coles) we have this :
JH Blake is Ninety
After an absence of ten years I looked in recently on the Kingston and Thames Valley Chess Club. There were many new faces and a number of familiar ones, among the latter one of rosy countenance, trim beard and twinkling eyes, none other than JH Blake, more vigorous than ever and attaining his 90th birthday on the 3rd February.
Twenty years ago in this same club I (RN Coles) was learning the game, now middle age approaches. Blake was an elderly man in those days, who had retired from all competitive play because of the strain it imposed; now, so far from showing the weight of years, he is back in competitive chess again. He won the club championship last year and is in a fair way to repeating his victory this year. Of all the ‘Grand Old Men’ of chess, few have still been champions in their 90th year.
Older readers of the BCM will remember him as their Games Editor for many years, but few memories will cover the whole series of his successes beginning with a 1st at Stamford in 1887. Even 1922 must seem a distant year to the generation of today. That was the year that Maroczy and Kostic were invited to Weston-super-Mare to meet such rising young English masters as FD Yates and Sir George Thomas. And the first prize amongst those talented players was won by JH Blake, who had been born just when Morphy returned to England after his Paris Victory over Anderssen!
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